Rheinischer Sauerbraten (marinated beef roast)
It was at the time of Napoleon’s occupation of Cologne, at the time of horsepower as the single source of transportation when a variant of this recipe was more popular than the one in wide use today.
No exact numbers here, only the list of ingredients I use and I never took the time to gauge them all. Some of those are a must. it is a different complete recipe without and shall not get called “Rheinischer Sauerbraten” than.
- a large piece of meat, 1 kg at least
- Aachener Gewürzprinten
It is technically a casserole, so the meat should be chosen accordingly: maybe a piece of round, rump roast or chuck roast.
The vinegar should be a good one but not the best, so not the one you use for cleaning but also not the 40-years old Balsamico di Modena.
The raisins…well the raisins should be raisins, of course. You can macerate them in Cognac if you can get the hands on the good and old and bloody expensive one. The raisins come in last so it would not be a complete waste, but I would not do it. I do not just think that it is a waste, I am shure it is!
Now, “Aachener Gewürzprinten” is something hard to come by. They are essentially richly spiced ginger biscuits—made in Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle), hence “Aachener”—but especially made as an additive for this recipe.
“Rübenkraut” is just the short form of “Zuckerrübensirup” (sugar beet syrup), where “Kraut”, for the etymological interested, is an older german word meaning “syrup”.
The marinade is straightforward: pour enough vinegar and red wine/water (about 50:50) into a large bowl or a large plastic bag (saves marinade), which must be able to hold the meat and the marinade. Spice the marinade with diced greens (carrot, leek, celery, and parsley. No cauliflowers, please), onions, black peppercorns (plentiful), juniper berries (scarcely), cloves and bay leaves. Some people like add a bit of garlic, spice it up with a chili or add some herbs like thyme or rosemary or do it all together and than some.
The old way of getting the marinade and the meat together is to boil the complete marinade (only once or for some minutes) and poor it boiling hot over the meat. That has been done at those dark times that were without refrigerators.
The new version is without the boiling, we now have refrigerators.
Let it marinate—in the fridge!—for three days, better a week; stir from time to time and turn the meat.
Take it out, dry it, salt it, sear all of its sides, add the marinade and let it braise until it seems to start to fall apart. This may last 2 hours, depending on the size of the meat and which animal it came from (beef needs longer). You may need to add some liquid from time to time. If you use broth be carefull: broth is in most cases salted.
Take the meat out and keep it warm.
Taste the sauce. Now, that is sour, isn’t it?
Add the gingerbread, the raisins and enough of the sugar beet syrup to make it taste good. The gingerbread thickens it up. If it is too thin add some normal bread, which is also the alternative for the gingerbread if you don’t like the, admittedly very special taste of that gingerbread. If it is too thick add some water or broth.
Add some salt and pepper and chili and garlic and herbs and…until you like the taste. Hint: a piece of good dark chocolate is not the worst ingredient to add.
Slice the meat, reheat it in the sauce and serve.
Typical, if not a must are the potato dumplings and the apple sauce as side dishes.
If you eat it in Cologne you might get
pressed to take offered something named “Kölsch” as a beverage. This is a beer brewed there (“in sight of the dome” to be more precise) and comes in very small glasses resembling a test tube. Do not call it a test tube! But don’t worry, you will get a new one when your glass is empty. This will go on until you go or fall off of your chair.
If you don’t get a new one and you feel bold: shout loudly and when somebody shouts back at you point reproachfully, very reproachfully to the empty glass and holler the magic words:”Ja, soll ich hier verdursten, oder was?”
You will either get your beer or beaten up and kicked out, so do that only in case of chronic boldness and a good medical insurance.